Daily Schedule + Tips For Staying on Task
By Sarah Dodds of Love Life Lettering
I’m still in the very early stages of my business journey so I haven’t exactly perfected my day to day routine yet, but I’m starting as I mean to go on when I (hopefully…) get busier.
Having worked remotely in my previous job, which I had for the past 3 years, I’ve also picked up some habits on how to work well from home. In this post you’ll find some of the things that help to keep me on the right track.
Wake up right
My ideal morning begins with an early wake up, meditation, yoga, a cup of tea (green, of course) and some inspirational reading before work begins. Ha! As if that ever happens…
But I do at least try to incorporate a couple of those things every day to start my day right and get myself in a good mind-set before I start work. Diving straight into things often means I end up feeling burnt out before the day is up and leaves me feeling uninspired.
Organise your space
A former colleague of mine was the most organised person I have ever met, yet she always had the messiest desk. She kept everything she needed beside her, yet somehow knew where it all was and the system totally worked for her. But it would be a disaster for me, because I’d get distracted.
When I started my business I went the other way and completely de-cluttered my desk, putting anything that I needed regularly into desk tidies. It’s important to figure out which surroundings suit you best, not other people, and what will help you get the most done.
Start off slow
Everybody loves to tick things off a list – I’m going to tick “write blog post” off mine as soon as I finish writing this! When I first started my business, I made a list of all the things I needed to do to get up and running, broke them down into smaller tasks and then gave myself just a few to tackle each day.
Once I’d worked my way through them, I built up my list day by day until I knew what was realistic. Now I can assign myself the right amount of to dos, i.e. a number I actually stand a chance of getting done, so I don’t get stressed out. I’ve had times in the past where I’ve piled so much on that it made it impossible to tick everything off, which can make you feel like you’re not getting anything done even when you are.
In my previous job, I always made my to do lists with a pen and paper and created a new one at the end of each day under the following headers:
‘Urgent’ – for anything that needed to be done first
‘Important’ – for things to tackle next
‘General’ – for tasks that could be done if I had any time left.
When I de-cluttered though, I wanted to banish my notebooks from my desk so I switched to the Todoist app. It’s great for adding lists under different sections, and it’s just as satisfying to digitally tick off every achievement. For more complicated projects with lots of extra information, I tend to go with Trello.
Find your best time of day
As much as I try and force myself to be, I’m just not a morning person and can’t concentrate that well before lunch. I’ve heard lots of people say you should get the hardest things out of the way first every day – I believe they call that “swallowing the frog.” I tried that for a while, but it just meant I took longer to do everything.
Now I typically schedule all of my simpler tasks for the morning while my brain is still warming up and do the more complicated things that require extra brainpower in the afternoon and early evening. Remember, it’s OK not to truly get going until, say, 11am if you’re working into the evening as long as that works for you.
Make yourself a timetable
I thought I would never go back to the ways of my schooldays; being made to sit through 2 hours of history lessons was not a memory I particularly wanted to revisit. But sometimes my daily to do lists were taking longer than they needed to because I was getting distracted or procrastinating in between.
I decided to allocate set timeframes for myself throughout the day to get everything done, as well as to stop myself wasting time checking emails constantly or ending up on social media. I now even add in the times I want to wake up, eat and exercise.
So far blocking out my time like this has worked really well and, most importantly, has meant I’m not still sitting at my desk late into the night. Of course, there are still days when you won’t quite get everything done in time or something last minute will come up.
Make your phone disappear
As I mentioned above, if I don’t get things done on time one of the main reasons is usually because I’ve ended up on social media. If you’re an Instagram addict like me then you probably have the same problem with your hands – I swear they open the app and start scrolling all on their own…
When I’ve decided that something really needs my full attention I move my phone completely out of reach so that the temptation isn’t there anymore. I do obviously keep it on loud in case an important call comes through and am still able to open messages on my laptop if needed, but I definitely think it helps as I spend much less time scrolling.
Sometimes I get sick and tired of sitting at my desk and feel like I can’t get motivated. When that happens, I move to the kitchen or the sofa (what a freelance cliché!) for a little change of scenery. If changing location doesn’t make me concentrate then I take a walk around the block, have a cup of tea or do some yoga and then I can usually get back to it once I sit down at my desk again.
There’s nothing less motivating than sitting at a desk for 8 hours straight and, when you have the freedom to do things differently, why would you want to?!
Not every day will be a productive day
One of the things I’ve struggled with the most since starting my own business is feeling guilty if I don’t get everything done that was on my list, whether it be from too many distractions or just not feeling motivated.
There have been a few occasions where this has happened and I’ve then piled way too much on the following day, or not taken a day off that I had planned to, and it becomes a vicious cycle where I continue to be unproductive day after day.
It’s far more helpful to treat each day as a new day so, if I do have to reallocate tasks, I’ll spread them out over the week or break them down into smaller chunks to make them more manageable.
Continue to change and improve
I am constantly making little tweaks to my routine to try to make the best use of my time while keeping myself motivated and happy. There’s lots more that I want to fit in such as doing daily affirmations, adding more exercise to my schedule and taking more time to volunteer at my local dog rescue centre, as well as getting out there to network and meet new people more often.
As my business grows I have no doubt that I’ll need to keep evolving and adding new ways of dealing with my growing workload…